NIH Director's Early Independence Awards (DP5)

There is no U.S. citizenship requirement.

Instructions for electronic submission: To apply for the Hartwell Foundation, please submit the materials requested below to this link  no later than June 8, 2020 at 11:59 PM.

Budget: $250,000/year in direct costs for five years

Number of Applications: 2 applications per institution (does not involve Ithaca)

Program Description:

The NIH Director's Early Independence Award supports exceptional investigators who wish to pursue independent research essentially after completion of their terminal doctoral/research degree or end of post-graduate clinical training, thereby forgoing the traditional post-doctoral training period and accelerating their entry into an independent research career. Applications in all topics relevant to the broad mission of NIH are welcome, including, but not limited to, topics in the behavioral, social, biomedical, applied, and formal sciences and topics that may involve basic, translational, or clinical research. 

The NIH Director's Early Independence Award is part of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program funded through the NIH Common Fund, which supports cross-cutting programs that are expected to have exceptionally high impact. All Common Fund initiatives invite investigators to develop bold, innovative, and often risky approaches to address problems that may seem intractable or to seize new opportunities that offer the potential for rapid progress. The NIH Common Fund intends to support approximately 10 awards in FY 2021.

See last year’s FOA for details.


  • Time window for eligibility: The receipt date of the terminal doctoral degree or end of post-graduate clinical training (including residency and fellowship periods) of the Applicant must be between June 1, 2019 and September 30, 2021 (anticipated).
  • At the time of application submission, the Applicant must not have served as a post-doctoral fellow following a previous (not the most recent) doctoral degree for more than 12 months.
  • Research independence at time of application: Individuals are eligible only if they, at the time of application submission, do not have research independence. Lack of research independence is defined functionally rather than by position title. Eligible individuals must have all the following characteristics:

a. The Applicant's current research agenda is set through concurrence with mentors.

b. The Applicant's research is funded primarily through support to other investigators (mentored fellowships such as NIH F31 or F32 Fellowships or NSF Graduate Research Fellowships do not preclude eligibility).

c. The Applicant does not have any space assigned directly by the institution for the conduct of his/her research.

d. The Applicant, according to institutional policy, cannot apply for an NIH R01 grant without special waiver or exemption from the institution.

e. Note: Though the Applicant must not be functionally independent at the time of application submission, s/he may become functionally independent prior to time of award and still retain eligibility for the award.

  • ​​​​​Applicant must commit to a minimum level of effort of 80%.
  • Only single Applicant applications are allowed.
  • There is no U.S. citizenship requirement.

Application Requirements

WCM is limited to submitting two applications for this program. Due to this limit an internal selection process will be conducted. Submissions should contain the following information:

1.     Letter of Intent including the following information: 

a. Descriptive title of proposed activity

b. Name, address, and telephone number of the Applicant

c. Names of other key personnel

d. Participating institution(s)

e. Number and title of this funding opportunity

2.     Letter of nomination from the Department Chair/Division Chief (2 pages). The letter must:

a. Highlight the applicant's scientific accomplishments to date.

b. Include a confirmation that all degree requirements will be met and that the receipt date of the degree (as will appear on the transcript) will be before September 30, 2021 (anticipated).

c. Certify that the Applicant will be eligible to conduct independent research at the institution at the time of the project start date.

3.     Description of the proposed work and summary of past research, including evidence of exceptional creativity and productivity (2 pages).

4.     Other project information (1-2 pages). Please include descriptions of:

a. The position to which the Early Independence investigator will be appointed .

b. The institutional resources commitment to the Early Independence investigator. Matching funds are not required; however, an appropriate level of institutional support (lab space, administrative support) is expected. 

c. The institutional career development commitment to the Early Independence investigator (plan for ensuring scientific independence, plan for integrating the candidate into institutional activities, mentoring structure)

5.     Applicant's Biosketch.

Instructions for Electronic Submission of Nominations:

Submit the above items here no later than June 8, 2020 at 11:59 pm in the order listed in one PDF file using this naming convention: PI last name-first initial_DP52021.pdf (Example: Smith-J_DP52021.pdf). Margins should be at least one inch and font size not less than 11 point

Example: Smith-J_DP52021.pdf

Past Recipients

Gee, Dylan - Year Received : 2015
Greenblatt, Matthew -Year Received : 2015
Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Office of Postdoctoral Affairs 1300 York Ave, Suite A-139 New York, NY 10065 Phone: